One of Their Own by Sue M

Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em…damnit!

Thanks to Katy for RNLI

Alternate Universe: RNLI

Characters: JD, Buck

Ratings/Warnings: None

Summary: Crew Seven can only watch and wait when the rescue services go all out for one of their own.

Thank you, Blackraptor for giving my stories a cozy Haven.

 A solitary figure jogged along the sand of Four Corners' South Beach. The lightening sky reflected across the wet, smooth ground, creating a rippling, mirror effect as boy and dog pounded along its exposed stretch. Normally, this was Buck's domain. The landlord of the Lifeboat Inn would take himself and his hound Mac out for a pre- dawn jog every morning, sometimes JD would even pry himself out of his comfy bed and join him. However, as coxswain, deputy coxswain, and the lifeboat's full-time mechanic, Chris, Buck, and Vin were on a two day residential course in Poole at the RNLI HQ. While they were away, JD had promised to take Mac for his daily run. He grinned to himself. It didn't really come as a surprise at how much he was enjoying it, and JD vowed to get up and do it more often.
Slowing to a halt, JD tugged the iPod earphones from his ears and whistled to the distant spec of his companion. Pushing sweat-drenched locks from his eyes, he looked out at the vista. He had run a lot further than intended. The youth caught his breath while watching the incoming tide roll and crash against outlying rocks, each explosion of sound like music to his ears. He loved this place. He and his mum had enjoyed happy holidays here, a fact that had prompted him to return to Four Corners when she died. It was the best decision he'd ever made, for coming here had inadvertently gifted him with a surrogate family, and a 'big brother' anyone would be proud to have.
Licking his dry lips, he lifted a bottle of water to his mouth and quenched his thirst, pouring a little over his head to refresh himself. He frowned at a dog that seemed determined to stay way ahead of him, and bark inanely at something in what looked like a cave set back in the rocks. JD huffed, raised a thumb and middle finger to his lips and released a shrill whistle.
"Aww, come on, Mac, Inez is cooking me a full breakfast and I'm starved." He whistled again, sighing heavily when he realized the greyhound was not leaving whatever he had found, so JD snapped the cap onto the water bottle, and ran toward the rock face Mac was barking at.
Inez hummed as she placed the plated grilled bacon, sausage, mushrooms, black pudding, and hash browns into the oven to keep warm. She would fry the eggs and warm the baked beans when JD was home and showered. She loved to cook for her boys. Buck was an excellent cook, but Inez insisted she provide their meals, feeling he worked hard enough, and besides, it was her pleasure.
She smiled. If anyone had ever told her she would enjoy domesticity in this way, they would have likely suffered the consequences by way of her quick, sharp tongue, but sharing a home with Buck, and now JD, didn't make the task demeaning, it empowered her. She was respected for herself, and anything else she chose to do for them was always appreciated and never taken for granted. She felt honored to feel so valued; her grin widening at the word both her boys had said to her only yesterday…'loved'. She loved them both, too…in very different ways, but love nevertheless. Still in her nightwear, she glanced at the clock, and decided to shower and change before eating. With Buck away, it was just the two of them for breakfast, and it would be nice to make time to talk before preparing for the day ahead.
JD cupped his hands to his mouth and yelled across the deserted beach. "Mac! Lord almighty you mangy hound, get over here…now!"
Undeterred, Mac continued to bark at the rocks outside the small cave, his excitement growing, the closer his young master got. JD closed in. "Mutt, I swear, if all this is over a piece of seaweed…" JD just saw a blanketed figure leap out, before he was tackled. Unable to keep his balance, he hurtled into the rocks and smacked his head on the jagged mass. He was unconscious before he hit the sand. Mac barked and tried to get close to his prone master, but a swift, vicious kick saw the yelping greyhound limp away. The shadowy figure grabbed the oblivious teenager by the arm and dragged him backwards across the sand and into the murky gloom of the small cave.
Inez frowned at the three men now with her in the pub. "I may be overreacting, but JD should have been back here four hours ago. He does not answer his phone, and when I walked to the beach, there was no sign of either him or Mac."
Leaning in, Josiah squeezed Inez's hand. "You did right to call us. The three of us will take a walk and drive around, and see if we can spot them, or find someone who's seen them this morning." Ezra and Nathan nodded their agreement.
Inez wrung her hands. "Should I call Buck?"
"Not yet, let's see how our own search goes," Ezra smiled.
"The police?" Her voice quivered with emotion. Nathan rubbed her arm.
"Yes, but again, let's give it some time. JD probably jogged further than he planned to, or found something interesting to explore." Nathan didn't add that the fact JD failed to answer his phone was bothering him. He hoped it was simply a dead battery.
The arrival of Gloria, Tom and Sally to begin their shifts in the pub caused Inez to rush to the older woman for comfort. Once the three were brought up to speed, Gloria took Inez to the kitchen for a cup of tea, Tom and Sally prepared to open up the pub in an hour or so, and Josiah, Ezra and Nathan left to start their search.
After enjoying a good night's sleep, followed by a hearty breakfast, Buck, Chris and Vin were going over the booklets they had been issued with the previous day. Nothing much had changed, but a refresher course at their level of responsibility was imperative. Buck had grinned on learning about the introduction of more advanced sonar/radar reflectors. JD would be made up. It suddenly occurred to him he hadn't called home. He pulled out his phone, but quickly realized the session was about to start, so he decided to check in later. He noticed Chris grinning at him.
"They're fine Buck. You've only been gone a day, and you'll be home later."
Buck shrugged and tucked his phone back into his pocket. "I know, I just missed all that noise in the morning, you know? Since JD moved in, breakfast has become a real important start to the day, whether it's just with him, me and Inez, or all you guys, I've grown to really look forward to it."
"We still on for dinner?" Vin asked. There had been talk of a big 'family' dinner when they got back, and he was really looking forward to one of Inez's home cooked meals.
Buck and Chris laughed. "Jesus, Taffy, you just had breakfast and you're already thinking about dinner?" Buck teased.
"Not just dinner," Tanner pouted. "Got lunch to get through here, first."
Four Corners, and two hours on neither of the three friends had located JD. South Beach was vast and the least commercial of the areas' three beaches, and there was simply no sign of him or Mac. No one had seen them around town, and JD's phone was going to voicemail. Now at the edge of town, and the three men just about to get into Ezra's Range Rover, local vet Alan Keller stepped out of his practice.
"Hey! Hi…you boys seen Buck this morning?"
Josiah shook his head. "He's away on business, why?" The vet gestured for them to follow him, and they did so. Inside, they were led into the backroom where animals that had been operated on or treated, were housed in enclosures. All three were visibly shocked on approaching one cage.
"Did JD bring Mac in?" Ezra asked.
Alan shook his head. "No, Amos Coop did. He found him down by the harbor, limping."
"What happened?" Nathan queried.
"Not sure. Might have been hit by a car…maybe kicked. Either way, he took a blow to his left hind leg and it's broken." He noted their shocked and worried expressions. "He'll be okay, but I'm guessing Buck will be worried about him. I tried calling the pub, but the line's busy. I was just about to try again when I spotted you through the window."
"The dog was alone?" Josiah checked.
"Yeah, why?"
The three friends glanced at each other. Josiah answered. "He went out jogging with JD this morning. As of yet, we haven't been able to find the lad." A silent message passed between them…time to call in help.
Arthur Pottle sighed. Normally he could scare a dog away before it got too interested in him, but that bloody greyhound just wouldn't give up. Well, he damned well wasn't getting his pizza, he had enough trouble keeping the seagulls away from it. Arthur poked the unconscious youth lying on the floor of the cave he called home. He didn't mean to hurt him, but he'd been nervous, seeing a stranger coming his way. When he grabbed the kid, he hadn't expected him to be so light. He had gone over hard, and now he was lying there, bleeding and unconscious. He touched a hand to JD's face…and cold, the boy was bleeding, unconscious, and felt cold. Reaching out, Arthur pulled across a dirty, old, moth-eaten blanket and covered JD with it.
"Sorry boy, it's all I got. Need mine, see?" Pulling his own faded lemon blanket around him, he chewed on some pizza he'd found in a bin a mile or so away, near the beach's solitary shop. "Sorry I broke your phone, too, but it kept making a noise." He stared at the shattered handset lying on the ground close to a cave wall, and then closed the pizza box, intending to offer the remaining slice to his new friend when he woke up.
Inez had called all of JD's friends and favorite haunts, in the vague hope he'd dropped in on one of them. She was just at the end of her tether when Ezra, Josiah, and Nathan walked in, accompanied by PC Nick Palfrey, an old friend of the crew.
Fearing the worst, Inez sobbed. "Madre de Dios!"
Josiah sat her down. "Sweetie, Mac was found injured and taken to Alan's for treatment. He has a broken leg." He gave her a moment to absorb the information. "Tell Nick everything you know. The Coastguard has decided, under the circumstances, to call in a Sea King, launch the lifeboat, and then the 'Y'. The tide's almost in and there's a lot of small coves to check out."
Crouching before the now sobbing woman, Ezra squeezed her arm and handed her a linen hanky. "We should call Buck. Would you like me to do it?"
Inez sniffed, dabbed at her eyes, and nodded. "Sí, gracias."
"Actually…" Nick cut in. "I've taken the liberty of sending an officer for him, Chris, and Vin. Knowing Buck, he'll want to get here as quickly as possible, and this way it's not only quicker, but safer."
"Good call," Josiah nodded, before sitting down. Taking Inez's hand, and holding onto the cross that hung from his neck, he prayed.
They couldn't explain why, but as soon as two police officers walked into their lecture hall, Buck, Chris, and Vin went on alert. One of the officers was directed their way, and all three were instantly on their feet.
"What is it?" Chris asked.
"Buck Wilmington?"
The brunet paled. "That's me."
The officer nodded. "Our colleague, Nick Palfrey sent us to pick the three of you up and head for Four Corners. A search and Rescue's underway for a young man you're all acquainted with…"
"JD…" Buck barely whispered the name.
"Yes sir. He and his dog went out onto South Beach early this morning. The dog was found with a broken leg and has since been treated, but as yet, the young man has not been located, and his phone is either off or missing as he isn't answering."
Buck checked his watch. If JD had gone jogging at 5 am he'd been missing…nearly six hours.
"Only now you're telling me this?"
"Sir, there was no initial cause for alarm. Kids go off all the time and turn up safe. There was no sign of him on the beach; the tide was nowhere near fully in. The dog turning up injured was the catalyst that set the wheels in motion."
"JD's no ordinary kid," Buck hissed. "He wouldn't do something like that."
The officer watched all three grim-faced men head for the door. "Would you like to collect your things?"
"Later," Chris called back. "Let's go."
JD shivered. God, it was cold in bed this morning. Unable to open his eyes, he became aware of a blinding pain in his head and an ache in his shoulder and arm. He moaned. A warm hand touched his brow and he sighed.
"Nope…Arthur. Want some pizza?"
"Wha…?" JD tried to raise himself up, but the pounding in his head became too much and he drifted back into pain-free silence.
"Awww…come back…I got pizza…" Arthur huffed, suddenly jerking at the sound of rotor wash overhead. He peeked out to see a large helicopter traveling low along the coastline. He turned back to JD. "Ooh…someone's lost." Leaning in, he pushed away the hair that had fallen over JD's eyes and winced at the blood. "Nasty bump…might need stitches." He frowned. "Not yet…you stay here with me for a bit. I want to talk to you. You got any cake?" He stared back out at the helicopter. "I like cake."
The Saint Nicholas and its 'Y' inflatable had explored the whole of the South Beach coastline and every cove and inlet off it. From the chopper, there were no sightings of a body in the water, or anyone stranded, so they called in the beach's on duty lifeguards to trundle along the sand in their jeep in search of anything that could be missed from sea or air.
Buck, Chris and Vin walked into the pub and a distraught Inez flew into the brunet's arms.
"I lost him…I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…perdóname, mi amor."
Buck held her close. "There's nothing to forgive," he whispered. Pushing her back, he thumbed away her tears and tried to smile. "Hell, when he's half asleep, that boy can get lost in his own bedroom." They both knew JD wouldn't worry them unnecessarily, and that Buck's words were merely a cover, but right there, in the moment, they began to believe JD would be okay. Still holding onto Inez, Buck turned to Josiah, Nathan and Ezra.
"How's Mac?"
"He's good," Nathan assured. "Alan said he could come home later, if you want. He also said Mac's walks are on hold for a few weeks."
Buck swallowed, "Lord help him, it's his daily walk that stops the mutt from getting fat from all the food he gets through."
"You spoil him," Inez whispered into his chest.
Buck struggled to control his trembling chin. "It's the kid that spoils him…"
A voice broke through the ensuing silence. "Hey, just a thought, but...we'll learn more at the station."
All eyes turned to Vin. "Good thinking," Chris nodded. Minutes later, all six men were heading to the lifeboat station.
JD's raspy, shallow breathing echoed around the cave. He could just make out the gloomy interior, but had no recollection of where he was or why he might be there. His head hurt so bad it scared him, and the pain from his shoulder was making it hard to breathe deeply. Had he fallen?
"Ooh, hello. You want a drink?"
JD's throat was parched. "Y…yes please."
"Only got cider."
JD's stomach rolled. "No…water?" he asked, hoarsely. He couldn't make out the face looking down at him, and then suddenly it was gone. Seconds later, Arthur, remembering the bottle JD had dropped when he blacked out, returned with it and held it to the youth's lips. He smiled when the boy drank greedily, some of the liquid dribbling from his lips in his enthusiasm.
JD tried to nod, and then thought better of it. "Yeah…thank you." He moaned. His head hurt so badly. "Where is this?"
"My home. I live here. Will you stay?"
JD swallowed. "Sir…I…I think I need help. Can you help me out…please?"
Arthur frowned. "How?"
"Doc…doctor…use my…phone…call Nathan." He noted the look of shame.
"Broke it, sorry."
'Oh God.' JD swallowed. "Can you help me…up?" He felt an arm around him, but before JD even got half way to sitting, he cried out in pain, succumbed to the agonizing spinning in his head, and was once again unconscious.
"Oh…oh dear…oh dear…" Not knowing what to do, Arthur eased JD back to the ground, picked up a half full cider bottle and swigged back the cheap, bitter scrumpy. His new friend wasn't much fun, so he'd turn to his old friend instead…drink.
While one paced, five men huddled around the radio in the lifeboat station listening to reports. "We should be out there," Buck complained.
"We could take the Star."
Chris glanced up at Vin, then to Buck. "We'd be in the way."
They all jerked when Buck slammed at a cupboard door with his fist. "Damnit…where the fuck is he?"
Unexpectedly, Vin grabbed the mic and addressed the lifeguards. "This is Four Corners Station. I know this might be a long shot, it's way past where JD would normally jog to, but has anyone checked out the caves at the far end of the beach, set back towards the cliffs?" He shrugged at the confused expressions around him. "If he's hurt, he might've crawled into one."
>>Lifeguard One. We're about five minutes out from there. Stand by.<<
>>"Coastguard, coastguard, this is the Saint Nicholas, we're heading that way and the 'Y' will be there in three. Over."<<
>>"Copy that Saint Nicholas. Have redirected Juliette One. Over."<<
All six men held their breath on hearing the Sea King was again joining up with the rest of the team. If JD was there, he'd be airlifted to hospital in no time. Buck stomped toward the exit. "I can't wait any longer." This might be a wild goose chase, but he had to get down there.
"Buck, allow me, I know a short cut to that end." With the tide in, a vehicle would struggle to gain access across the sand. Ezra ran for his Range Rover, and once all six men were squeezed aboard, he raced for the South Beach car park. One of the trails through the sand dunes alongside it led directly to the top end of the beach. They could be there in five minutes.
With a gentleness that belied his gruff appearance, Arthur scooped up the unconscious youth and rocked him. "Sorry you're sick, boy. I didn't mean to hurt you. Just wanted to get that damned dog away. And I thought you'd be bigger…and meaner, like those others that come sniffing 'round. Sorry." He stared at the face of the boy he was cradling. It was slack and caked in blood from the oozing wound in the youth's hair, and black/blue patches were forming on the pale features from the bruising.
"Ssshh…Ssshh…you'll be okay, Arthur's here. When you're better, I got pizza. Sometimes I find sam-whiches and cake. I like cake. When the noisy helicopter goes away, and the people by the shop go home, I'll go get us some…before those damned seagulls beat me to it again"
Inez sipped on her umpteenth cup of tea. She looked at her companions. "I wish someone would call."
"They will when they hear something." Rain had joined them, now.
"I know, I'm sorry, that was silly of me."
"Not silly," Gloria smiled. "You just said aloud what we're all thinking."
"It must be hard," Rain pondered. "Having to search for one of their own. I mean, not that most rescues aren't hard…"
Inez smiled, despite her tears. "Si."
The female voice calling from outside his cave startled Arthur and he snatched up one of the many of his empty cider bottles and threw it toward the opening. "Go 'way!"
RNLI lifeguard Penny Williams yelped and stepped back just before the bottle hit her. Her two male companions were just about to get heavy when two more bottles flew out and shattered against the wall just inches from them. The four men from the 'Y' radioed it in, turning on seeing a Range Rover bearing down on them.
Before the vehicle had stopped, Buck was out and heading for the cave. "Anything?"
"Someone's in there," Penny confirmed. "But he's pretty pissed off."
Too desperate to care, and despite numerous calls for him to wait, Buck entered the cave's mouth. "Hey…hello…I've lost my brother. Have you seen him? Can I come in?" Hoping the lack of missiles was encouraging, Buck moved further in. "Hello?"
His heart constricted on seeing an unconscious JD in a stranger's arms…and a very dirty and disheveled stranger at that. He forced a smile. "Hiya…I've been looking for my brother." Buck gestured toward JD. "What's wrong with your friend?"
Arthur looked warily at the stranger. He seemed friendly, and wasn't getting too close. "He hit his head…my fault, I did it…I didn't mean to."
Buck swallowed, inching slowly closer. "I'm sure you didn't." Despite his concern, he attempted a smile. "The thing is, now I've had a good look at him…your friend…I can see that it's my brother. The one I've been looking for. I was wondering, would you mind if I checked him over?"
"Are you a doc? Are you Nathan?"
Buck's heart gave a little lurch. Nathan? Did that mean JD had been talking? "No, I'm Buck, and that's JD. What's your name?"
"I'm Arthur. I'm seventy six, you know."
Buck edged a little closer. "That's a mighty fine age to be, Arthur." He fought the emotion when he finally got a good look at the injured teenager. "JD's only eighteen. I was wondering…can I take him Arthur…please, sir?"
Pottle looked down at the boy in his arms and nodded. "Yeah, I need to pee anyway."
As Arthur moved away, Buck eased himself down and took JD. He covered the boy's ears and called out. "Listen up, Arthur needs to pee…let him out." The last thing Buck needed was for the old man to get scared and run back in. He turned his attention to JD.
"Aah, Kid." He pushed back the blood-matted hair to look at the injury, pulled him close and then carefully rested his chin against the crown of JD's head. "It's okay…Buck's here, and so's half the rescue services. You're gonna to get a ride on a whirly bird, Kid." Seconds later, Nathan and the doctor from the chopper were with them. Reluctantly handing JD over, Buck stood and joined Chris who had followed them in.
"How bad?"
Emotion cutting into his voice, Buck shook his head. "Don't know…looks nasty." In minutes, JD was secured in a basket and being winched aboard the Sea King.
Nathan ran back from the spot JD had been airlifted, yelling over the noise of the rotor wash as the Sea King headed off. "He's going to Plymouth."
'Y' coxswain Jack Porter gestured to the Saint Nicholas. "We can be there in no time." With a nod and a reminder from Buck to check in with Inez, and while Buck and Chris donned lifejackets and the `Y' took them to the waiting lifeboat, the others prepared to make their way there by car.
Arthur shuffled back to his cave, surprised when a recently arrived cop gently took his arm. "Come on; let's get you checked out, yeah?"
Pottle shrugged. "Got any cake?"
The officer smiled. "Loads."
"Good, I like cake. Can't always get any you know. Damned seagulls are fast around here."
From Plymouth Harbor, just west of the Hoe, a police car was waiting to whisk Buck and Chris to Derriford Hospital. As the tension built during the short journey, it was not lost on either man that one of the teaching hospital's specialties was neurosurgery. On arrival, they were instantly guided to the ER waiting room, where a heap of forms awaited Buck to fill in. Sometime later, the rest of Crew Seven, with Inez, arrived, the latter gasping on seeing blood over Buck's shirt and jeans. Buck frowned, before realizing what had caught her eye and quickly drew her close.
"Hey, it's okay. You know what head wounds are like…"
Her liquid eyes grew wide. "Head wound?"
"Err…" Buck looked to Nathan for help. The doctor stepped forward.
"JD took a nasty blow to the head, but there are signs he came around at some point." He hoped his smile was reassuring, but judging by hers, and the others' expressions, he wasn't overly confident. As if on cue, a doctor emerged from the ER and approached the group.
"Hello, are you here for John Dunne?"
Buck stepped forward, nodding. "Yes sir. What's the news?"
He smiled. "Good, under the circumstances. He has a hairline fracture of the skull, but no swelling or impaired vision. However, he will suffer with headaches for a while, but we can control that. He has a bruised shoulder…the same side as his head injury, and several cuts and contusions, but all tests show no lasting damage."
"So, he can come home?" Buck asked, hopefully.
"If he has a good night, and keeps his breakfast down tomorrow, yes, I don't see why not." The doctor laughed as several eager hands pumped at his.
All eyes turned to Buck. "You said no impaired vision…how…?"
The doctor smiled. "He's awake. Once we got some fluids into him, he rallied pretty quickly. Would you like to see him before he's admitted to a ward?" The man would remember the look from the animated brunet for some time to come, as Buck brushed past him and into the ER.
The doctor caught his arm. "He has no recollection of his accident. Don't push him, let it come naturally."
Buck nodded. "No problem, doc."
Hearing a familiar voice, JD looked wearily over to the door and smiled when Buck came into view. "Hey. Is your course over?"
Buck leaned in, his voice soft. "Well and truly." He smiled."You're gonna love the new technology they got lined up."
"Yeah." Buck could see JD was tiring. "Get some rest. I'll come and get you in the morning."
JD sighed. "Okay." His eyes struggled to open wider. "Oh, you're leaving?"
"No." Exchanging tired smiles, Buck leaned on the bed rail and watched his surrogate sibling drift off to sleep.
"Come on over." Never taking his gaze from JD for a moment, he urged Inez to join them. He had felt her presence just as JD fell asleep. From the opposite side of the bed, she leaned over and kissed the teenager's good cheek.
"He never got to eat his breakfast," she sniffed.
"He can have it tomorrow," Buck stated. She nodded and the three remained together until JD was moved to a ward.
Over 24 hours later, JD was ensconced on the sofa in the flat above the pub, and idly flicking through TV channels. Buck watched from the doorway, taking in the boy's bandaged head, and not missing the pain etched in the youth's eyes. He remembered the first 12 hours as JD fought through them in a desperate attempt to be released from hospital and allowed home. Inez had fussed him since his return, scolding him when he apologized for worrying her. Buck couldn't comment, he had done the same when JD had learned about Mac and apologized for that, too. Snapping out of his reverie, Buck moved inside the room with the glass of milk that he had brought for him, bending to give Mac a Bonio and a pat on the head, as the plaster- casted hound sat in his basket close to the youth.
JD smiled. "It's nice, being spoiled, but you don't have to, okay."
"Is it also okay if I do it anyway?" Buck insisted as he plopped down onto the sofa. The pair chuckled. Buck continued. "I thought you'd like to know…Arthur's been allocated a place in the nursing home overlooking North Beach." Although JD had little recollection of the incident, he vaguely remembered an old man in a lemon blanket talking to him. Buck had explained Pottle was living rough in the cave on South Beach.
"It's hard to get in there," JD noted. "Who pulled strings?"
"Let's say he got a little 'divine intervention'."
JD smiled. "Nice one, Josiah."
Buck sat up. "Ooh, I got something for you." He handed over a box; his eyes alight with glee as JD gaped.
"An iPhone?"
"Yeah, got a great contract deal. Shitloads of texts, unlimited downloads, 600 minutes of talk time, and only ten quid a month more than the one that got trashed." 'Damn, Buck wished he had a camera right then…JD Dunne…speechless.'
"Oh yeah, did I tell you I gave you a ten quid a week rise? I figured you're willing to help run the pub if I'm away, so it's only fair you get paid for the extra responsibility." He licked his lips, the silence, and shimmering hazel eyes focusing on him was becoming a little unnerving. "JD?"
'Damn…' Maybe it was the effects of the past few days' events, but JD was feeling a little overwhelmed. Finally, he spoke. "I don't deserve this, Buck. You're always doing such great things for me, and all I do is cause problems…" He halted abruptly when Buck held his good arm.
"Now listen to me. I do it because I want to, because I care about you…" he made a face. "Don't make me say the 'L' word."
They both laughed before Buck went all serious. "Waiting to hear if you were safe the other day was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Having you come to live here was one of the best things ever to happen to me. Do I have to say more?"
JD shook his head and went to reciprocate.
"And neither do you, I already know." Their easy silence was interrupted.
"Knock, knock!"
Buck grinned. "Subtle as a brick, Tanner."
Vin raised his eyebrows and addressed JD. "Did he just call me a prick?"
JD giggled. "Not yet."
Vin smacked Buck out of his seat and took up residence. "The others are on their way, but I rushed, 'cause I heard you got chocolate."
JD grinned. "I might. Mac's got Bonios, too."
Vin pursed his lips. "Do they taste good?"
Buck bobbed his eyebrows. "Not sure, but they're good for teeth and a glossy coat."
JD snorted and tugged a lock of Tanner's hair. "Hell, Vin must've eaten a whole box, then."
"Just for that, I'm not telling you what Dilys Radley did to Herbert Radley when she found him in bed with Nellie Parsons."
"WHAT? Give!" Ignoring the Welshman cautiously sniffing a box of Bonios, and seeing a chuckling Buck about to leave the room, JD called to him. "Hey Buck, do you think you could bake a cake anytime soon?"
The pub landlord nodded. "Yeah, no problem. What do you want, chocolate?"
"Not for me," JD smiled. "I was thinking, when I'm properly up and about, I might pay a visit to the North Beach Nursing Home."
Buck grinned. "I'll come with you. I understand Arthur likes pizza, too."
The End

Mac's treats
Scrumpy Cider